Mental health docs want psychiatric records in EHR software

Electronic health records have been instrumental in improving the clinical capabilities of primary care physicians and larger health systems. Yet behavioral health has largely been set apart from physical medicine and imaging practices, with mental records being collected and stored separately from other documents.

However, bringing behavioral health and EHRs together might become a reality in the near future, according to survey results from Software Advice. Thirty-three percent of providers working in mental health who still manage paper-based practices have added practice management and EHR software to the top of their wish lists. The research firm polled a random selection of 385 doctors to discover common pain points and reasons behind purchasing new software.

Of the surveyed physicians, 83 percent indicated that they want one central application that covers everything from patient scheduling to revenue cycle management, as well as documentation capabilities. The challenge for mental health specialists is that, unlike primary care providers who deliver episodic care for specific physical problems, there is a greater focus on ongoing care plans with few clear-cut goals on the horizon. This is compounded by any instances of patient no-shows, which can interfere with medical billing and tracking progress.

Another 31 percent cited their main pain point resting in the ability to monitor patient assessments and treatment plans. Other features that providers desired included mobile capabilities, e-prescribing, appointment reminders and customizable templates.

HIE holds the key for mental health
EHR Intelligence explained that integrated care and health information exchange are seen as the pathway to solve issues with documenting behavioral conditions. However, only 44 percent of these records are stored electronically in most facilities and shared merely 28 percent of the time, according to a study from the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare.

This leads to one of the most common pain points: lacking interoperability. In keeping with stage 2 meaningful use requirements, providers have to participate in HIEs with other facilities to continue receiving financial payments from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Unfortunately, the majority of behavioral health providers are not eligible for the EHR incentive programs, which in turn hurts patients as doctors are less likely to adopt health IT products.

If physicians had more access to EHRs that included psychiatric records, they might be able to cut down on unnecessary expenses caused by high readmission rates. Everyone benefits when health information is shared among facilities, and hopefully the future holds brighter outcomes for behavioral health providers.